What is the difference between corporate and agency recruiting?

I am new to this field and would like to know a little about everyone's experience as both a corporate recruiter and as an agency recruiter.

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Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 17, 2012 at 3:45pm

Keep in mind though, there's a difference between being a highly successful self-employed recruiter like Jerry or Sandra, and being a junior recruiter flunky at an agency like Robert Half or Manpower. You can get there for sure, but it doesn't happen overnight.

Comment by Cristina Lewis on August 17, 2012 at 9:24pm

Well, I am on the agency side of the recruitment game right now. Seems agency recruiters end up making a much better living. I particularly like Sandra's description! :D

Comment by Cristina Lewis on August 17, 2012 at 9:29pm

Hi Amy...Yes, I am a Jr. Recruiter at an agency now. My long term goal is to eventually be self-employed and have the financial freedom + flexibility. I am just educating myself on all avenues of the business. I am also receiving training courses from Barbara Bruno. Heard of her? Feedback on her program? I like her!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 18, 2012 at 2:06am
We all started out being jr. Flunky bull pen recruiters. It only takes 2 or three years of BS and the guts to take a risk, then 5 years to make it work living it 24/7/365, then another 5or 10 years to make it keep working..then you can take a breath. :)
Comment by pam claughton on August 18, 2012 at 8:24pm

I've done both and it really depends on what's important to you, and what drives you and ultimately, how good you are.

The money can be much better, hugely better on the agency side, if you work hard and have a knack for it, and especially if you take the step to go on your own.

There are many people in our business that bill from $300,000 to over a million. You just cannot see that kind of money on the corporate side. That said, in any agency environment, there's a handful of people that bill at this level, maybe the top 10-20%. If you fall into this level, then going to the corporate side would represent a HUGE pay cut.

If you're not at this level, if you really enjoy the work, and are good at what you do, you might enjoy the corporate side. I did a project years ago when the market was slow, as a contract recruiter for a large bank and it was a great experience. 

One of the things I liked on the corporate side was seeing things through more after the placement, hearing more about how they are doing, any challenges or successes they may be having. You also get to know the business better and have an inside track to what upcoming strategies are and where the business is going, what's coming down the pipe. That makes you feel like part of the team, like you are more involved in building something.

A downside of corporate recruiting is that you often have double or even triple the amount of searches on your plate, which can limit your time to dig deep in searches. As one of my clients said to me, "I'm giving you this search, because I have 40 others on my plate, which means in a given week, each hiring manager gets an hour of my time..not a lot to work with."

On the agency side, you have the luxury of turning down business, or shifting your focus to the hiring managers and clients that are responsive. On the corporate side, you are responsible for filling all the jobs given to you.

The agency side, even when you work in an agency for someone else, is more like having your own business, your desk is your business and it's up to you to decide how busy you want to be and how successful you are. 


Though I enjoyed my contract experience, as it allowed me to see what life is like on the other side, it also made me realize I never want to go there again...for me the agency side is much more fun, and flexible, and far more lucrative.

I did find it helpful though to have that contract experience on the client side...helps you to understand their frustrations better and to see for yourself where you fit best. Some of the recruiters I worked with there would have killed it on the agency side, they were just phenomenal, but it was too far outside their comfort level to go there.

Comment by Chris Connolly on August 20, 2012 at 8:52am

I knew this would be an interesting conversation as soon as a read the title!!

You forgot another JOY of agency - QUOTAS!

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 20, 2012 at 9:50am
Sandra and Pam laid it out very well... And yes I like Barb Bruno's training! :)
Comment by Stacey Boyer on August 20, 2012 at 10:23am

Been on both sides of this one.  Biggest positive difference is seeing the people you hire on a daily basis after the hiring process.  Taking ownership over the recruiting process is pretty satisfying too.  Also, there's a perceived "stability" that comes with a corporate role, which I tend to think is an illusion. Downsides, corporate politics, lack of freedom and flexibility, most likely coworkers don't understand what is really involved with recruiting, the money.  Lastly, I was labeled by a coworker as the "most interrupted person EVER", that comes with the job too.

Excellent (and accurate) article written by Amy (above)  http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/10-tips-to-surviving-...

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 20, 2012 at 1:27pm

Thanks for the link love Stacey! I would say being so upfront and personal with the corporate politics is the single biggest downside. Can't escape it and can't always (safely) call it out...

Comment by Bill Schultz on August 20, 2012 at 8:29pm

("Live in Agency once, but explicitly leave before it makes you hard; momentarily live in Corporate once, but leave before it makes you soft. 



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